Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Close Encounters Of the Fourth Kind

I have a facebook friend, C who loves to post quotes by famous people (most of whom ironically I have never heard of) which sometimes sound reasonable and true at first but as I think about them more deeply, I find the quotes do not reflect the truth. I have disagreed with and rebutted so many famous people's quotes (posted by C) on facebook that people probably think that I'm trying to be (or am) a smart aleck.

Anyway, C recently put up a quote which I again disagree with:

There are only two kinds of men: the righteous, who believe themselves sinners; the rest, sinners who believe themselves righteous. ( Blaise Pascal)

I agree that there are these two kinds of people as mentioned above:

1. Sinners, who believe themselves righteous

During His ministry on earth, Jesus met many of this kind of people, mainly the Pharisees and other religious leaders and teachers. They believed that they were righteous because they scrupulously followed the religious laws and did good works; they were proud of themselves and did not see themselves as sinners:

Luke 5:30
But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"

Luke 7:39
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner."
Luke 15:2
But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."

Jesus knew their hearts and told a parable to teach them that their works do not make them righteous:

Luke 18:9-14
Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

2. The righteous, who believe themselves sinners:
Sadly, there are many of this kind of people around and they call themselves Christians. Many Christians are not assured that they will go to heaven because they still commit sins after they become Christians, and therefore they still see themselves as sinners.

They still have not understood that even in their mother's womb, even before they have commited any sinful actions, they are already sinners. They are born sinners; they are sinners not because of sins they have commited but because of THE SIN which ONE MAN [Adam] commited:

Romans 5:12
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned -

However, after we become Christians, we are no longer sinners, we are the righteous. We are righteous not because of our acts of righteousness; we are righteous because of THE ACT of righteousness of ONE MAN [Jesus]:

Rom 5: 17-19
For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.

While I agree with Blaise Pascal that there are these two kinds of people around, I disagree that they are the ONLY two kinds. Let me introduce you to another two kinds:

3. Sinners, who believe themselves sinners

This is what we were before we became Christians. We knew deep in our hearts that we were sinners and thus estranged from God and we sought for a remedy, and we found it in Jesus - Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone (Rom 5:18)

Blaise Pascal said it like this: "There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus."

After we become Christians, we are and should be like the fourth kind of people:

4. The righteous, who believe themselves righteous

We, Christians, must have the assurance that we are the righteous, and we are assured because our righteousness is not what we earned through any righteous acts we do but rather it is what we received as a gift of God through Jesus Christ:

Rom 5:17
For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

You ask,"But we still commit sins after we become Christians, so are we still righteous?" Our righteousness is not a state of sinlessness but a position of right standing before God. Yes, we still sin but our righteousness is credited to us apart from works and therefore we are the blessed man whose sin the Lord will never count against him (Rom 4:6-8).

When we accepted Christ as our Lord and Saviour, we are no longer sinners; we are a new creation, reconciled to God, and our sins are no longer counted against us:

2 Corinthians 5:17-19
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them.

I am the fourth kind of people. I am reconciled with God. I can now call him Daddy (Rom 8:15).

I am the righteous and I believe it! Do you?

(Recommended listening: Sermon by Pastor Joseph Prince - "When You Sin, Are You Still The Righteousness Of God?")

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